Forget quick-release skewer, the mechanical derailleur, carbon frames, or disc wheels. Never mind clipless pedals or brake-mounted shifters. Scratch those deep-section road wheels, lightweight helmets, or miracle fabrics.
The most important innovation in Cycling had nothing to do with those incremental advances, but rather with the invention of Cycling-Specific eyewear. To begin with, they allowed the Cyclist the privilege of being able to see where they were going, and avoided the indignity of having the eyes tear up on a descent. After all, no one needs to look like they’re crying because the speeds are too high. They also protect the eyes, saving them for important things like the admiration of the opposite sex.
Oakley is widely considered to be the pioneer of cycling-specific eyewear, but others were doing Merckx’s work in that avenue at about the same time. While Greg LeMond and Phil Anderson were leading the arms race for the American eyewear specialist, another of my childhood favorites, Charly Mottet, was also busy sporting some prototype Rudy Projects and setting an early high water mark in the art of Looking Fantastic.
Once Cyclists sorted out that shades make you cool (we’re not as clever as rock stars), the late Eighties and early Nineties saw an explosion of rad eyewear in the peloton. Here are some standouts from the period.